Is it difficult to learn the Korean language? (Yes and no...) | AutoLingual - learn a foreign language yourself (2023)

The Korean language has a reputation for being one of the most difficult languages ​​to learn for an English speaker. There is no doubt that the language is difficult, but it also has elements that make it easier than other languages ​​that are considered difficult, such as Arabic and Mandarin.

Is it difficult to learn the Korean language?

Hangul, the Korean alphabet, is ridiculously simple

At first glance, the Korean alphabet looks like the dreaded Chinese or Japanese symbols. Everyone knows that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of these symbols to remember if you want to master Chinese writing.

But with Korean it's different. The Korean writing system is a simple 24-letter alphabet. Each syllable is placed separately in a block of approximately 3 of these letters. So the "symbols" you see in Korean writing are actually just letters arranged in groups.

The Hangul alphabet is one of the rare writing systems that has not evolved organically throughout history to fit into a language. That wasdesigned in the 15th centurycommissioned by King Sejong the Great. It was created with the intention of being simple, and Korean literacy rates have skyrocketed!

In other words, theThe Korean alphabet is not difficult.🇧🇷 In fact, it's considered one of the easiest writing systems out there. In many ways it makes more sense than the Latin script we use to write English.

The Korean alphabet also has the advantage of being almost entirely phonetic. Words are pronounced as they are spelled, which can be a great relief for language learners. To better understand how important this is, imagine you had to learn English all over again. How do you know how to pronounce "through, though" and such? And how do you pronounce the name of the city "Leicester"?

Korean pronunciation may require some work.

Therefore, the alphabet is pronounced exactly as it is written - that's good. But when it comes to making the sounds, things get a little trickier.

Korean is a syllabic language while English is an accented language. This means that every syllable in a Korean word has the same length and is unstressed. In English, every word has a dominated syllable that is stressed and pronounced a little slower. You say "PoPROtoes "but never"AFTER THISTattoos" or "I wantPROis" or "fatherES". If it were a Korean word, it would be "po-ta-to-es" with equal stress on each syllable.

When pronouncing the individual letters in Korean, the difficulty lies in thekurzDifferences from English. When you learn Arabic it will be difficult to master the foreign sounds, but you will be able to distinguish them easily because they are so different. However, in Korean there are many consonants that sound similar but are distinctly different from the Korean ear.

There are consonants that come close to the English we know, then there are the aspirates and the double consonants.

In Korean, it is important to distinguish between aspirated and non-aspirated consonants. Aspirated consonants come with some air when you pronounce them. Try putting your hand in front of your mouth and saying "ripped off." You should feel a puff of air at the "t". Now do the same and say "save". Now there is no air! In Korean, you have to distinguish between these two types of t.

(Video) Is Korean Hard to Learn?

Korean also has the consonant "ㄹ", which is sort of a hybrid of "l" and "r". Imagine pronouncing an "l" but moving your tongue as you say it.

As for the double consonants, I would say that they are actually easier to understand if you think of them as separate letters and not doubles of the other consonants.

  • The sound of a Korean "K" becomes a strong "G" in its doubled form.
  • A weak "T" becomes a strong "D"
  • the sound of a single "P" is like a weak "P" while a double "P" sounds more like a strong "B".
  • Similarly, a single "S" sound becomes a much louder "S" sound when doubled.
  • A single "J" sounds like "cha" but becomes a strong, distinct "J" when doubled.

And then there are the vowels and diphthongs (combinations of vowels). Here you have to get used to some unfamiliar sounds. Some find this difficult to learn and requires a lot of listening and repetition. But it is possible!

And to name a few other points that make Korean pronunciation easier, think in tones. Many Asian languages ​​like Mandarin, Thai andVietnameseThey have tones, which are different syllable accents that completely change the meaning of words. These do not exist in Korean. What a relief!

Korean vocabulary and the difficulty of learning Korean words

The Korean language is very far from English, as are all other European languages. This means that Korean words sound very strange. Learning foreign words will be much more difficult than learning the vocabulary of European languages. There's just not much you can do with words.

"Huis" in Dutch sounds like "home". "House" in Spanish reminds me of a "case" which could be a way of looking at a house. "Maison" in French draws attention to "masonry" related to houses. But in Korean, "House" is "집", pronounced "jib"...

I'm not saying it's impossible to remember by making associations (sounds a bit like jeep, right?), but the word doesn't have a clear connection to anything house-related that's already on is english. This means that you need more patience and more repetition before the Korean words stick in your memory.

But there are exceptions! - In today's (South) Korea,EnglishIt's one thing (!) for many modern concepts like technology, pop culture, etc., English loanwords are used in large numbers. This can be useful, at least when you're learning those particular types of words.

Another factor that can make learning Korean vocabulary a bit easier is that complicated or specialized words and concepts are often made up of several shorter, simpler words. A seal is a "water dog," a voice is a "throat murmur," and tears are "water in the eyes."

How difficult is Korean grammar?

The general theme with Korean seems to be that some things are wonderfully easy while others are excruciatingly difficult. The same applies to grammar.

The Korean conjugation is a walk in the park. A verb stays the same whether "he", "she" or "she" does it. You can change the verb from past to future or present simply by changing a suffix. And many verbs are basically formed from "to do" + noun. Like "we're building a bike" to pedal.

Korean also lacks genres like French and many other European languages.

(Video) 🇰🇷 6 things i wish i knew BEFORE learning Korean

As for the more complicated aspects of Korean grammar...

Korean is an "SOV" (subject - object - verb) language, while English is "subject - verb - object". So if you say "I eat apples" in English, it becomes "I eat apples" in Korean. That doesn't sound too bad, but try to build longer sentences and you'll probably get confused.

Then there are the Korean honorifics, in which the grammar and sometimes also the vocabulary change depending on the person you are talking to.

There are 7 hierarchical levels and depending on the situation they can have an impact on how you should form a sentence. You won't use all seven effectively, however, as some are used very rarely. The ones you use in everyday life are relatively accessible and most of the time you just change a syllable here and there and use some technical terms instead of others.

To become fluent in Korean, there is no way around honors, but you can start by simplifying it a bit and being more polite to everyone. The rest will become easier over time.

Is Korean a difficult language? See what the linguists say:

The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) is the US government agency charged with teaching foreign languages ​​to US diplomats going abroad. They are known for grouping the languages ​​they teach indifficulty-based categories.

When looking at these language groups, it's important to know that the FSI strives for what they call "professional working ability," or in other words, a very high level of fluency. They also base their assessments on a classroom setting, so the numbers for self-learners may not be accurate.

FSI divides the languages ​​they teach into 4 groups. At the easy end we have Group 1. These are languages ​​like Dutch,Frenchand Spanish. According to the FSI, it takes anywhere from 5 to 600 hours of instruction to master.

In group two we find Germans, Malays and others. These last 900 hours.

In the third group we have Russian, Thai,Hindiand languages ​​that are significantly more difficult. It takes approximately 1,100 hours of instruction to learn what the FSI calls "the profession of professional work".

And then there's group four. You'll find languages ​​like Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and, yes, Korean. Group four takes 2,200 hours of instruction, according to the FSI.

Ok, in other words, Korean takes twice as long as Russian and four times longer than French.


This is where you should consider the FSI approach as well as your end goal. You are probably self-taught (at least if you follow the general advice I give on this site) and your end goal may be something other than what the FSI calls "professional competence in the workplace". So 2200 hours might not be the right number for you.

But the fact that Korean is a category 4 language almost speaks for itself.

According to some of the world's most renowned language experts,Korean is one of the most complicated languages.what they teach

My first self-taught language was French. It took me 3-4 years to tell people that I speak fluent French.

This means that Korean takes four timesthat, or 12-16 years?

Of course not!

Figuring out how to learn is one of the most important parts oflearn languages🇧🇷 Once you've found a routine that works and you're working efficiently on your studies every day, you're on your way. It took a while with French.

With the right guidance and a solid method,Learning Korean on your own will probably take 3-5 years..

So is Korean a difficult language?

As much as I'd like to say that saying Korean is difficult is an exaggeration, I just can't do it. Sure, Korean has simple things. But the language is very different from English and other European languages. It just takes some getting used to!

Actually, though, I think "language difficulties" might be the wrong view.

I think everyone canlearn a languagefor fluency. After all, you've done this before.

Children in North and South Korea are constantly learning the Korean language from scratch. They are not intellectually superior to you. (Wait). In fact, they stacked all the odds against themselves. No proper learning materials, no patient teachers, no structured method. It's just a matter of years of listening over and over again, trying to speak, failing and trying again until you get it right.

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However, children have an advantage over you: they have no choice.

You have English and possibly other languages ​​that you can fall back on. If you cannot communicate in Korean, you have other options. Therefore, learning the language is not a life and death situation.

And that means continuing with the study, being patient and constant despite minimal progress, lack of motivation, boredom and exhaustion, it becomes very difficult.

For the hard partlearn koreanIn fact, it's not really the language itself:

is save it!

But I can confidently say that if you study every day, you will be patient, diligent and patientgo on, you will eventually master Korean. But you must get down to business!

If you want to know how I recommend you learn Korean, read mineGuide to learn the Korean language from scratch.

#Language difficulties


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Is it hard to learn Korean by yourself? ›

The FSI puts Korean as a Category V language. Which means, it's one of the hardest languages to master. They estimate 2200 hours of study before you can reach fluency in Korean. Or 88 weeks of extremely intense study.

Why is it so difficult to learn Korean? ›

Korean language has a lot of connectors and sometimes the sentences can get really lengthy with so many connectors. Your poor brain will be busy figuring out the connectors in the first half of the sentence while your Korean friend would already have spoken 5 more sentences.

Is Korean considered a difficult language? ›

We often consider the Korean language one of the world's most difficult languages to learn, especially for English speakers. It has a reputation for being tough and can be scary for learners.

How long does it take to learn Korean by yourself? ›

How long does it take to learn Korean fluently? It will take about 1200 hours to reach a high intermediate level. You'll need additional practice, so you may want to double that number to 2400 hours to get towards fluency. That would be about 23 hours of study per week for two years.

How do I learn Korean fast by myself? ›

  1. Create a Korean Language Learning Schedule. ...
  2. Choose the Right Language Learning Method. ...
  3. Learn Korean Hangul. ...
  4. Focus on High-Frequency Korean Words. ...
  5. Use Konglish to Reach Fluency FASTER! ...
  6. Change How You Use Flashcards. ...
  7. Buy a Good Korean Textbook. ...
  8. Practice with a Korean Speaker.

Is Korean easy to learn for Americans? ›

Although Korean might be ranked as one of the more difficult languages to learn by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), it is by no means impossible. So don't worry about the “hours” it takes to learn Korean. You can learn Korean fast — and you may even already know more Korean than you think!

Is Korean worth learning? ›

Learning the Korean language is certainly a good hedge. It could help make your career or business more relevant in the future. Korea is already one of the strongest economies in Asia, and if trends continue, learning Korean could be just as important as learning Mandarin for business and career prospects.

Is Korean the easiest to learn? ›

Korean is one of the easiest Asian languages to learn. Furthermore, the Korean alphabet is made up of 14 consonants and is known as Hangul. Likewise, Korean has ten vowels with symbols that you will combine into syllable blocks for usages. Similarly, another fun fact about Korean, it is an isolated language.

Is Japanese or Korean harder? ›

However, considering the larger number of sounds and the different particles in Korean, Japanese is definitely the easier language to start in. If you're not good at distinguishing new sounds and pronunciations, you're definitely going to have a hard time with Korean.

Is Korean hard for Spanish speakers? ›

It's easier for Spanish speakers to learn other Romance languages (e.g., Italian, Portuguese, French). That said, languages such as Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean would be even more difficult than English.

Is Korean or Chinese more difficult? ›

Generally speaking, we might assert that Korean is easier for an English speaker to learn than Mandarin Chinese. But this is very relative. In fact, the US Foreign Service Institute assigns Mandarin Chinese and Korean the same level of difficulty. Both languages are in “Category Four”.

What is the easiest language to learn? ›

15 of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers -...
  • Frisian. Frisian is thought to be one of the languages most closely related to English, and therefore also the easiest for English-speakers to pick up. ...
  • Dutch. ...
  • Norwegian. ...
  • Spanish. ...
  • Portuguese. ...
  • Italian. ...
  • French. ...
  • Swedish.
Oct 24, 2021

Is Duolingo effective for Korean? ›

Like any language, Korean requires frequent exposure and lots of practice, so keeping up with your lessons on Duolingo is a great way to study. The Korean course has a special tab for learning Hangul where you can practice reading and forming Korean characters!

What is the first thing you need to learn Korean? ›

No matter your intentions for learning Korean, the first step is to learn hangeul. “Hangeul” (sometimes romanised as “hangul”) is Korea's writing system. It's called the “Korean alphabet,” but it's actually a syllabary, meaning that the “letters” are entirely phonetic.

What is the first thing to learn in Korean? ›

The first thing you'll want to do is learn the alphabet. The Korean Alphabet (한글 | Hangeul) is one of the simplest alphabets to learn, even if you are an absolute beginner. You can learn this writing system in a few hours with some simple lessons.

What does the Korean word oppa mean? ›

Borrowed from Korean 오빠 (oppa, “elder brother or close elder male friend (of a female)”).

How hard is Korean for English speakers? ›

Despite Korean being fairly early to learn how to read, I'd say Korean is quite hard to learn (a 4/5 in difficulty) — harder to get to fluency for an English speaker than French or German, but easier than Chinese or Arabic.

Is South Korea American friendly? ›

South Korea is currently one of the most pro-American countries in the world.

What are basic Korean words? ›

10 Must-Know Basic Korean Words
  • 안녕하세요 (annyeong haseyo) – “Hello”
  • 안녕히 가세요 (annyeonghi gaseyo) or 안녕히 계세요 (annyeonghi gyeseyo) – “Goodbye”
  • 네 (ne) or 예 (ye) – “Yes”
  • 예 (ye) or 괜찮다 (gwaenchanhda) – “Okay”
  • 아니요 (aniyo) – “No”
  • 주세요 (juseyo) – “Please”
  • 감사합니다 (gamsahamnida) or 고마워요 (gomawoyo) – “Thank you”

Is learning Korean good for your brain? ›

Improves Your Memory And Boosts IQ

Bilinguals have many benefits, and the biggest one is intellectual growth. Learning Korean can help you improve your cognitive skills and make you a more logical and quick decision-maker. Hence you can also learn Korean to make your brain more active and healthy.

Is Korean hard to learn in college? ›

According to the Foreign Service Institute, Korean is one of the hardest languages for English speakers to learn. “The grammar is very different,” Kim says. “And the sentence structure is very different as well. In Korean, the verb is always at the end of the sentence.

Why do people want to learn Korean? ›

Learning Korean connects you to 75 million people worldwide. Here, you can have a one-of-a-kind opportunity to dive into Korean culture and explore a new world. Because you want to prepare for your future. Knowing another language and appreciating other cultures—these are skills that last a lifetime.

What is the easiest and fastest way to learn Korean? ›

10 Useful Tips For Learning Korean
  1. Learn Hangul. ...
  2. Build your vocabulary. ...
  3. Loanwords and Konglish-words are your friend. ...
  4. Surround yourself with Korean. ...
  5. Define your type of learning. ...
  6. Work with Korean teachers. ...
  7. Find companions / Korean friends. ...
  8. Engage in groups.
Jan 16, 2020

What is easier Korean or Japanese? ›

Unlike other East-Asian languages, Korean isn't a tonal language. This means, that the meaning of the word doesn't change, regardless of what your accent is like. This makes learning Korean much easier than Japanese. Japanese has 46 letters in its alphabet. Meanwhile, Korean only has 24.

Which is easiest Japanese or Korean? ›

Korean is considered to be much easier than Japanese. There are more letters in the Japanese alphabet than in Korean. Japanese also contains more complicated Chinese characters and difficult grammar.

Is Korean closer to Chinese or Japanese? ›

Further, the Koreans are more closely related to the Japanese and quite distant from the Chinese. The above evidence of the origin of Koreans fits well with the ethnohistoric account of the origin of Koreans and the Korean language.

Can Chinese and Korean understand each other? ›

While the similarities between the two languages are noticeable, Chinese and Korean aren't mutually intelligible. Korean and Chinese people couldn't understand each other if they only used their native language in a conversation. That's because they're from different language families.

What is the hardest language in the world? ›


As mentioned before, Mandarin is unanimously considered the most difficult language to master in the world! Spoken by over a billion people in the world, the language can be extremely difficult for people whose native languages use the Latin writing system.

Is Korean accent easy? ›

Learning accents can be hard in any language and Korean accents are no exception. The pronunciation of many Korean words can come slowly to beginner students who are not used to the different sounds and formations found within the Korean language.

Is South Korea English friendly? ›

While Seoul is the modern capital city of South Korea, many locals aren't fluent in English. It's generally not a very widely spoken language in South Korea. However, you'll have better luck finding a local who can speak English in main tourist neighborhoods, such as Myeongdong, Dongdaemun and Hongdae.

What language is most like Korean? ›

In terms of grammar, Korean is closest to Japanese. It also shares many words of Chinese origin. As such, learning Korean will give you a head start on learning Japanese, as well as some Chinese vocabulary.

Is it easier to learn Korean If you already know Chinese? ›

Knowing Chinese will help you learn Korean in a few different ways, giving you maybe a 25% advantage over other Korean learners: A lot of words in Korean will sound familiar (as they come from Chinese)

Is Korean Japanese or Chinese harder? ›

Meanwhile, Korean grammar is likely the hardest, while tones in Mandarin are notoriously difficult for native English speakers to hear, and Japanese is the fastest spoken language in the world at over 7 syllables per second.

Is Korean Japanese or Chinese easier? ›

Korean is the clear-cut easiest to read and write when compared to Japanese and Chinese, as its alphabet is easier to remember and more logical to Western language speakers.

How long does it take to memorize the Korean alphabet? ›

The good news is that learning Hangul is relatively easy; it can take you 90 minutes to get the basics down. After 1 week, you should have a solid understanding of this alphabet. A good approach is to break down the Hangul in chunks and study each one in 15 minute sessions a day.

How many hours does it take to learn Korean alphabet? ›

1. Learning the Korean Alphabet: With any standard lesson, you will learn the alphabet as quickly as 60-90 minutes. It will help you to learn the basics of the alphabet so that you can read most words.

What is the 1 hardest language to learn? ›

Across multiple sources, Mandarin Chinese is the number one language listed as the most challenging to learn. The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center puts Mandarin in Category IV, which is the list of the most difficult languages to learn for English speakers.

What are the top 3 easiest languages? ›

10 Easiest Languages for English Speakers to Learn
  1. Afrikaans. Like English, Afrikaans is in the West Germanic language family, once thought of as a Dutch dialect. ...
  2. French. Ah, the language of love. ...
  3. Spanish. ...
  4. Dutch. ...
  5. Norwegian. ...
  6. Portuguese. ...
  7. Swedish. ...
  8. Italian.
Nov 3, 2022

What is the number 1 language to learn? ›

First Language

Mandarin Chinese tops the list of most commonly spoken native languages with 870 million native speakers. With less than 200 million second language speakers, the vast majority of Mandarin speakers are native and also located in mainland China.

What app can make you fluent in Korean? ›

The best app to learn Korean is Rocket Languages. It has a complete course that takes you from complete beginner to conversational in just a few months. The app also helps you practice every communication skill (reading, writing, speaking, and listening), unlike most other apps.

Has anyone learned Korean from Duolingo? ›

The audio is awful and difficult to hear. If you are a novice with little idea about this language, you won't learn meaningful on Duolingo Korean. If you know even a little Korean, you notice that many of the sounds are like each other and are not correct.

What is the most accurate Korean learning app? ›

Here are the 15 best apps to learn Korean, whatever your level:
  • Talk To Me In Korean – Best for beginners.
  • Memrise – Best for recalling new words.
  • Rakuten Viki – Best for watching Korean TV.
  • FluentU – Best for casual practice.
  • Naver Dictionary – Best Korean dictionary.
  • HelloTalk – Best for language exchange.
  • Summary.
Nov 10, 2022

Is Korean or Japanese harder to learn? ›

Unlike other East-Asian languages, Korean isn't a tonal language. This means, that the meaning of the word doesn't change, regardless of what your accent is like. This makes learning Korean much easier than Japanese.

Which is harder Korean or Japanese? ›

If you compare both languages, you will notice that both of them are equally challenging. The Korean language's writing systems are hard to learn, whereas the Japanese alphabet is complex to understand. 40 Alphabets, which makes creating and understanding sentences easier. Easier as the writing system is more simple.

Is learning Korean harder than Chinese? ›

Generally speaking, we might assert that Korean is easier for an English speaker to learn than Mandarin Chinese. But this is very relative. In fact, the US Foreign Service Institute assigns Mandarin Chinese and Korean the same level of difficulty. Both languages are in “Category Four”.

Is learning Korean easy than Japanese? ›

Korean is considered to be much easier than Japanese. There are more letters in the Japanese alphabet than in Korean. Japanese also contains more complicated Chinese characters and difficult grammar.

Is Korean or Japanese or Chinese harder? ›

Other people who enjoy grammar and grammar-based languages find Korean the easiest since it doesn't have the complicated Chinese characters, and some weird geniuses may enjoy Japanese the most as it is the most challenging – difficult grammar AND Chinese characters.

What is easier Chinese or Korean? ›

Relatively, Korean would be an easier language to learn. Thanks to its phonetic alphabet and more simplistic grammar rules, Korean is not the most challenging Asian language to learn. Chinese on the other hand is much more widely spoken. This means that finding study materials and practice partners would be easier.

How many words do you need to be fluent in Korean? ›

How many words do you need to know in Korean to be considered a fluent speaker? The answer is between 3,000 and 5,000.

Is Korean easy to learn for English speakers? ›

In fact, I'd put it as one of the hardest languages I've learned. Despite Korean being fairly early to learn how to read, I'd say Korean is quite hard to learn (a 4/5 in difficulty) — harder to get to fluency for an English speaker than French or German, but easier than Chinese or Arabic.

Should I learn Korean or Japanese or Chinese first? ›

Gateway to Korean and Japanese - it would be easier for you to learn Korean and Japanese once you learned Chinese. These three languages all share sino-vocabulary. In Korean its about 60% of the vocabulary.

Should I learn Korean grammar or vocabulary first? ›

Vocabulary is the answer. The inefficiency of not being able to frame comprehensible sentences shows when you reach an intermediate level of learning and regret on how much time you gave on learning the grammar and still can't hold basic conversation because of lack of vocabulary.

How many letters are in the Korean alphabet? ›

Hangul is made up of 14 consonants and 10 vowels, making it an alphabet with a total of 24 letters.

Which language is most spoken in the world? ›

These are the most spoken languages in the world
  • English – 1,121 million speakers. ...
  • Mandarin Chinese – 1,107 million speakers. ...
  • Hindi – 698 million speakers. ...
  • Spanish – 512 million speakers. ...
  • French – 284 million speakers. ...
  • Arabic – 273 million speakers. ...
  • Bengali – 265 million inhabitants. ...
  • Russian – 258 million speakers.
Jun 4, 2022


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